Left-wing politics from the US to Nepal, via Zimbabwe, South America and Palestine.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Back to the Left

After that last translation-saga, I was rather hoping to return to the left for my next piece. So here it is. Moshe Zimmerman is one of many left-wing Israeli academics who opposed the war in Lebanon. This column deals with the effect of the war on Israel's international image. While that may not be of concern to the majority of the world's left, I believe that one does have to consider the effect on Israeli civilians, including those not in Hizbollah's missile range.

Thankfully, this one is pretty short. Enjoy

A Stint of Blindness
Hebrew original here.

Moshe Zimmerman doesn't understand how Israel goes to battle without thinking about what its effects will be on its international status.

The commission of inquiry won't discover, since it won't look for, the answer to a critical question: who blinded Israel to its status in the world, to the point where it has become the leper of the international community?

The previous army's chief of staff confessed in an interview titled "There is a Boundary-Line" that Israel's response to the July 12th incident [1] was according to planning he had been part of, and only "at the end of the first week of the war did something go wrong." That is, he himself, the army and the politicians were partners in the primal sin: the belief in the military option as was used to solve Israel's problems, and in a concrete manner - the Lebanon problem.

The former chief of staff's criticism was expressed in the following words: "instead of coordinating with the Americans so they could stop us when the operation is at its peak and begin a diplomatic move to dismantle Hizbollah, we asked the Americans for more time." In other words: Israel believes that it is tail that wags the American dog, when in fact the American dog not only wags the Israeli tail, it uses it as the bait at the end of the fishing line.

Israel supported the foolish American act of invading Iraq. It bought the false excuses for that war - the weapons of mass destruction that Saddam supposedly had, and the ties to Al Qaeda. Israel became the fire in the forge of the most extreme of the knights in the American crusade, headed by Bush, until even the neo-conservatives began to doubt themselves.

Israel believed that the US supports Israel in its war against Hizbollah, while American diplomacy used the Lebanese incident to prove that there is another insane state in the world apart from itself, that is willing to use force without consideration against what it calls the "axis of evil". Due to this, the US wasn't interested in what the former army chief of staff had planned for it - a moderating intervention during the Lebanon war.

The result was that not only did the US act here as a promoter of war, as a partner in responsibility for the deaths of over a hundred Israelis and hundreds of Lebanese, it also helped expose Israel in its weakness. Since Israel additionally did not supply the goods - a military achievement that would have shown that an US ally is a 'winner', the US will turn its back to it in the future as well. It has no compunction in its treatment of 'losers'.

Israel's Bow

In Europe, Israel's bow to the US, combined with its inability to achieve the aims of the military operation gave it a worse name since it had a bad name anyway. There they're now asking beyond what they were asking at the beginning of the war: "where is the logic in destroying Lebanon to return two kidnapped soldiers?", but with greater anger "if you didn't succeed in returning the kidnapped soldiers, why did you stop the war? If you didn't hit Hizbollah hard - what was the logic of the war in the first place?"

There remains an impression that Israel is an entity that adores the use of force since it is drunk with power, despite that power not being grounded in reality. It feels like Israel is a blood-thirsty state, that desires to "put Lebanon 20 years back", or to "flatten entire villages with bombs."

When they read in Europe that an Israeli member of parliament calls after the war for the expulsion of the Arabs in the Occupied Territories and to treat Arabs who are citizens of Israel as a fifth column, they wonder as to the origin of the doctrine of Israeli-made racists. Perhaps it is European-made literature from the 1920's?

The commission of inquiry won't attempt to answer the questions, why didn't they think about the practical response of the world to Israel's military enthusiasm? It won't think about the price of the war in tourism to Israel, not about the treatment the Israeli tourist will receive from now on abroad and not about the consequences for Israeli sport.

Sports organizations in Europe were swift to distance themselves from games in Israel as if it were a leper. And even if they return to play in Israel, in the eyes of every player and fan in Europe a sporting match with Israel is as bad as competing against Albania in its time, or against Afghanistan today.

Even if the basic moral question following the war is that of the cheapness of human life, the questions regarding Israel's international status and image have far-reaching implications.

Moshe Zimmerman is a professor in the school of history at the Hebrew University and an expert on German history.


[1] Two Israel soldiers were kidnapped by Hizbollah on Israel's Northern border with Lebanon on July 12 2006. This was the reason Israel gave for embarking on the second Lebanese war.


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